Today is the anniversary of my marriage to my husband. Some people call their spouses "the love of their life" and they are not wrong, but for me the words seem too much of the realm of fairy tale to ring true.
Marriage in its new stages is a promise to love through, and despite the storms, which may ravage the life of one or the lives of both partners. It is a promise to hold onto each other no matter what lies ahead.
Marriage which has weathered the years is a distilled love. One which may lack the full headiness of young love, but is more powerful. It is a knowing love. Shared trials, losses, worries, arguments are tempered with renewed promise, forgiveness, understanding, strength, and gentleness. There is a complexity to an old marriage which makes it all the sweeter for the entwining of two minds and hearts which have grown together like the trunks of two birches planted together: each supporting and leaning lending their parts to a greater whole.
So my husband, Matthew, is so much more than "the love of my life". I free him also from the shackles of that term.
He is the extension of my thoughts as I am his. His knowledge is mine and mine is his. His triumphs are better than my own, mine are partly his for he gives me what I need, as he is able. His failures shadow me as much as they do him; mine creep or roar into his light. Though we do not always get it right, together we shelter each other.
We each remain distinct, two beings in one marriage. Before we married his bachelor self viewed marriage as "a slippery slope" into what he was not certain, but it was to be avoided if possible. He can no longer remember what ominous idea lurked at the bottom of this slope. The landscape of marriage has slopes and hills, plateaus, rivers, oceans, mountains, frozen ponds, bog, desert, and gardens lush. I would not trade a single one for a wealth of unbroken sky unending. If one looks up, the sky is always visible from any vista.
I have many loves in my life. I did not divest myself of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends when I married him. They remain loves of my life, many of them from my earliest memories. Romantic love is deepest deep, but not for me exclusive tenant of my heart. When our two daughters were born, my heart and his grew to an unforeseen dimension, measureless, ever expanding. They are different loves for each us and certainly loves of our lives. Our new grandson, Remi, is a love of our lives as we are shown, again, the infinite capacity a heart has to love.
When we married, we each gained new family and friends whom we have come to love for and with each other. They are all loves of both of us. When we welcomed our son-in-law, Mikhail, into our family we gained another love of our lives.
The idea that one person, no matter how wonderful, talented and loving, can be everything to another person seems impossible to me. I know I cannot be everything for my husband. He needs his friends, his family and his own pursuits to enrich him in ways I cannot. I would not so limit him. So it is with him and I. Long marriage has cured me of expecting him to be what he cannot be for me. To wish it other diminishes the freedom and quality of love. To wish it other denies me the pleasure of the other loves of my life, and seeing him prosper in his.
The word "friend" derives from Old English freond meaning "the loving one". He is my best friend in this sense, but even here I rankle at the ranking of love. The loves in my heart are circular, not vertically arranged. He is my husband, I his wife. What that means is beyond expressing, as every attempt to do show falls short of what it is.
Happy anniversary to you Matthew. I am grateful for what we have shared. I am grateful we are together to look forward to the days ahead. I thank God for you and for giving us the courage, strength and joy to continue to work on our marriage.